Taking A Look At New England Auto Racing History

Wednesday July 24, 2013
 
 

 

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By Dave Dykes                                                                            CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR FULL SIZE

This week we’ll keep the introduction short n’ sweet, letting the attached photos & commentary do the talking. However, there is an upcoming event that we have to mention, and it’s something that regular readers of this website are not going to want to miss! Hall of Famer Billy Greco is hosting a picnic & car show on Sunday, Aug 11th at the Polish American Club located at 194 W. Spring Street in West Haven, CT. The event serves as a fundraiser for the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. Get your tickets early by contacting Billy at 203-378-7945 or emailing mod43@optimum.net To be held under the pavilion on the grounds of the Polish American Club, it’s a rain-or-shine affair which runs from noon to 6pm. Tickets will also be available at the door. Lastly, congratulations go out to those elected to the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame announced on Tuesday. For more info go to www.near1.com.    As-always, email reaches me at foreveryounginct@yahoo.com

Yet-More Mid-Week Meanderings…..  

This guy is simply-synonymous with Connecticut’s Waterford Speedbowl. A scan of the record books reveal Bob Potter to be one of the most-successful modified drivers to have ever emerged from the Bowl’ (and for that-matter, New England). Ranked 2nd on the track’s all-time Modified win list (a stat that includes 6 championships), this image captures Bob at the shoreline oval in the mid-70s when he was wheeling the Coventry Racing Enterprises coupe, a ride that bought him much-success at his home track. His stellar record at all-three of Connecticut’s active tracks gained him a spot in the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2007. (Rene Dugas Photo).

Captured here with his familiar coupe at Connecticut’s Stafford Springs Motor Speedway, anyone that was around during what’s widely considered the “Golden Era” of New England Modified racing is sure to recognize this guy. The late Booker T. Jones joined the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2003. Upon his induction, award-winning racing journalist Bones Bourcier commented that “He drove NASCAR Modifieds around the Northeast for what seemed like a hundred years, and yet when he passed at the age of 74, it was not his racing you remembered. It was his friendly smile, his big right hand shaking yours. He was everybody’s buddy.” The consummate low-buck operator, Jones made-due with equipment that was often less than that of his competitors. He remained a popular figure at New England raceways long after his days behind the wheel were over. Note the guy in the background on the motorbike – that’s another Hall of Famer, our late friend “Wild Bill” Slater who worked at Stafford following his retirement from driving. (Rene Dugas Photo).  

Simply a classic shot harkening-back to the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl’s true glory days. Captured here is racer par-excellence Ray Moran. He was quite a shoe, having scored a total of 18 feature victories in both modified & Non-Ford competition between 1954 and 1960. A fondly-recalled crowd favorite, he was voted one of the Speedbowl’s “50 Favorite Drivers” in 2000 during the track’s 50th Anniversary celebration. Also appearing in the background of this image in his #3 coupe is New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame member, Rene Charland. (Shany Photo).

We really like this 1973 shot of one of Plainville (CT), Stadium’s true “low-buck operators.” I’d gander to say that our Webmaster and former Stadium’ competitor Tom Ormsby probably raced more than a few laps against the man known-as “Bubblegum Joe” Bubbico. Once a familiar sight all-over the ovals of New England, he eventually moved west and continued his racing career at San Bernardino’s Orange Show Speedway in Southern California becoming a top-competitor in the Late Model class. Still later, he became the Reverend Joe Bubbico, serving the parishioners of “On Track with Jesus” - an independent non-denominational Christian outreach program. (Steve Kennedy Photo).     

Noted early modified star the late Red O’Keefe has paused for a moment-or-two in the pits so that our longtime racing shutterbug friend John Grady can do his thing. As I’ve often said, without the longtime dedication of our sport’s many photographers, historically-based websites like this simply would not be possible. The next-time you see a racing photographer at your local track, take a moment to thank them for what they do. (John Grady Photo).   

Captured here pitside at the Speedbowl during the late-70s, our friend Mark LaJeunesse actually started his racing career as a youth in the quarter midgets. He returned from the armed forces in the early-1970s to begin a modified career that spanned over 3-decades. The first victory came in 1974 with many-more following including a triumph in the Speedbowl’s 2000 Budweiser Modified Nationals. Under the Tattersall UNITED sanction of 1975, he garnered the Sportsman-Modified title. This self-built coupe (as were all of this team’s cars), was initially campaigned by LaJeunesse team driver Howie Nye, who annexed “Rookie of the Year” honors in 1978. It was also driven to many fine finishes by the late Fred “Fuzzy” Baer. (Steve Kennedy Photo).

Here’s what it was all-about at the Speedbowl during the formative years of the track also known as the “Shoreline Oval.” Meet “Big Butch” Caswell. Smiling-away and seated behind the wheel of a MOPAR coupe typical of the early days, he was a mountain-of-a-man. He was particularly-good in the Non-Ford division, recording a number of victories and top-5 finishes during his career. (Shany Photo).        

One of our sport’s many second-generation racers is pictured here ready–to-go at Joe Tinty’s former (& much-missed), Plainville Stadium in Connecticut. Following his father “Lil’ Dan” into the driver’s seat, Dan Gaudiosi Jr. campaigned this Pinto sporting his family’s signature #44 on its flanks during the 1970s. The Gaudiosi name is legendary in New England racing circles, with famous car builder Fred “Sharkey” Gaudiosi a member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (Phil Hoyt Photo).

And here we have a classic 1950s-era shot of Johnny Sandberg, one of the best-ever at Connecticut’s “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl. Claiming the 1952 Non-Ford championship, he scored a career-total of 19 feature victories at the shoreline oval in both Non-Ford and Modified competition. Sandberg’s final Speedbowl triumph came during the 1961 campaign though he continued as a top competitor into the later years of the decade. (Shany Photo).

And here we have the late Bobby Santos making a rare appearance at Waterford in the 1970s. One of the drivers whose roots are traced back to the former Norwood Arena in Massachusetts where he got his start in the Hobby Division of the early-fifties, he went-on to become a dominant force in the modified wars. Driving for Hall of Fame car owners Joe Brady (as seen here), Billy Simons, and Art Barry among others, he was a threat to-win every time he strapped-in. Another member of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame, Bobby passed-away in December of 2006. (Rene Dugas Photo).

BONUS SHOT: It takes more than just big winner to fill-out a starting field at your local short track week-after-week, and in the 1970s, this guy was busy slugging-it-out with the elite of the Waterford Speedbowl’s “Mod Squad” every Saturday night. Young Rick Erlandson campaigned this neat Pinto-bodied creation at the shoreline oval recording many respectable finishes against the best-in-the-business. During his time as a racer, Harvey Tattersall’s United Stock Car Racing Club was at the helm. (Rene Dugas Photo).

 
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